Saturday, March 10, 2007

Perspective: U.S. has met discreetly with Iran over the years

Enmity between the U.S. and Iran dates back at least to the fall of the U.S.-supported Shah of Iran and the subsequent taking of over 50 hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran by students (shown storming the embassy, above). The crisis lasted from November 4, 1979, through January 20, 1981.

The White House insists that the United States won't talk directly with Iran until Tehran suspends its nuclear program. But U.S. officials have been discreetly meeting their Iranian counterparts one-on-one for more than a decade, often under the auspices of the United Nations.

The little-known history of the contacts between the nations, which have not had formal diplomatic relations since the Iranian hostage crisis 27 years ago, is one of misunderstandings and missed opportunities. Budding cooperation on Afghanistan, Iraq and rooting out al-Qaida has led to increased distrust and frustration instead of warmer ties - a record that makes a summit both countries plan to attend this weekend in Baghdad all the more stressful.

Read the rest at the Baltimore Sun